“My eyes were closed tight, hands behind my back and by my reckoning; I jumped, maybe 6 inches high, over a twig. That was about a minute ago. I was waiting to land. I slowly peeked at where I was going to end up; and through my now opened eyes, I looked at all the stars…where a hall was supposed to be.
“STARS, they were all around me; in front of, in back of me…” the Major turned to his left, tilted his head up, then down, spun left, then right,”…they were on top of, all around me, they were even under me, stars and nothing else. What happened to the hall, the hall that was on the other side of the twig?
“What happened to my clothes, in the light of a gazillion stars I could see that I was no longer wearing my 49s sweat shirt and jeans anymore. The pants I was wearing were of a of a woolen type, a deep brown like the wet bark of a tree, a ruffled front shirt with lace sleeves the color of morning fog, braces of the deepest purple, a coat the color of a deep water lake collar rising up to my ears sleeves rolled back and draping to mid-thigh. I felt a little chill around my ankles and saw…the sneakers, an olive green with orange laces and no socks.
“It was then that I noticed the hat. A scarlet hat of felt, yards and yards of felt. Something was tickling my right ear, like a bug buzzing to close; I went to brush it away and discovered it was a feather. The hat seemed to be growing feathers, long feathers, short feathers, straight feathers, bent feathers, when would it stop? I reached to the top of the hat; it stopped.
“I was standing, floating; spinning it was hard to tell in that space. There were explosions of colors going on all around me, colors I could never have imagined. Then colors collapsed on themselves, and music was in the colors, thousands of beautiful songs played at my ear. I was somewhere between the beginning and the end, here and there…and then I knew something else…I WAS FALLING!”
The Major grabbed the brim of the hat and with a look of panic on his face.
“From out of nowhere, there were clouds and water and very solid ground below me (I was sure it was below me this time) and I was going to die.
“The wind was tearing at me as I fell faster and faster, it pulled most of the feathers from my oversized hat. I twisted the hat on tighter…and I slowed down, I tilted the hat right, and I turned right, with the hat over my right ear, the few remaining feathers flopping in the breeze, I was floating (again). Floating over a land that was nestled in the warmest corner of the calmest sea (and I had seen them all during my rapid decent).
“There were fields, filled with every kind of flower imaginable; there were patches of the deepest red, blues and green bunched tightly together; colors that in the breeze looked like waves on the sea. It was a splendid, enormous, impossible patchwork quilt.”
The Major extended his arm, with his hand open he gestured in a wave like fashion from corner to corner of the field he was in.
“laid upon the ground for a giant’s picnic.
“The splendor that was flowery field was dwarfed by the forest bordering it. Populated by trees of stupendous proportions, with bases bigger than houses, trunks and branches rising so high above they separated the clouds like foam on the shore wraps around a stone.
With a look of delight and voice almost a whisper, he said:
“Why this could have been a model for the Garden of Paradise.”
“It was then that I noticed that I was once more falling, not as far or as fast, but FALLING. In great haste I twisted my hat, tried pulling it over both ears and then my eyes and was just about to scream…when I stopped, I landed.”
“’It took you long enough…just had to gawk.’ Charly said. ‘Pull that thing off your eyes and lets us take a stroll.’
“’Well, Master Quickstep, what do you see?’
The Major tilted his head up as he spoke, shifting his gaze as if talking to a much taller person.
The Major stood silent for a moment, he slowly turned his head from left to right, his mouth opened his eyes grew wide as he said,
“Beautiful…colors, flowers, trees and grasses…beauty…sir”
The Major’s head tilted up and left,
‘Come, into the Wood.’ The Major said in a voice deep and pleasant.
“As small as Charly was he moved very very quickly and it was a struggle to keep up and as I started to break into a run, he stopped, turned and faced me, fists on hips he looked at me. I was going to run him over or if by some miracle I could stop my feet from moving I was going to fall face first into the mossy ground or on top of Charly. My olive green sneakers (with the orange laces) held their ground as if glued to the forest floor, my woolen trousers grew ridged and it was the very purple braces that kept me from flying out of those same trousers as I waved back and forth like slinky on an incline.
“’Are you always this slow? Why ever do they call you, ‘Quickstep?’ Charly stood in a one of the scattered shafts of light that made their way thru the dense canopy above. Charly gestured toward the ground around him, as if on cue a breeze shifted the trees and the pin points of light danced through the forest. ‘What do you see?’ he asked.
The dancing lights showed the brilliant greens of the ferns, the tans and greys of clusters of mushrooms, discarded branches and leaves, a rabbit, squirrel and the damp moss floor. I mentioned all that I saw, overwhelmed by the balance, the perfection of it all.
“Charly laughed more of a chuckle as he led us, (at a more leisurely pace) from the heart of the Great Wood back into the sunlight. ‘Take that thing off your ears and listen.’”
The Major pulled the hat off of his ears and set it high on his brow so that it draped like a head dress and tilted his head as if listened to a distant voice,
“I listened and listened and then I began to hear them; all the voices, some were grumbling, some were unkind, some frantic and none were happy.
“All of the flowers seemed to be…well vain. This is what I heard ‘I have the true red’ said one red rose; and ‘Only I have grand stance’ said the iris. Among each and every flower boasting of its splendor; there was unhappiness, for it seemed that flowers have the very softest of voices. You doubt me, hold your ear as close as you might to any flower any flower you chose and tell me what you hear.
“So brag as they might, they couldn’t be heard by even their nearest of neighbors.
“Now they did have guests that stopped by I saw; the oh so busy bees, butterflies and the occasional aphid.
“The bees arrived in a flurry of rapid movements and even more rapid talk. ‘The buzzzz queen said buzzzz buzz and buzz, gather-buzzz-ing buzz buzz, and buzz. Good-buzzz.’ The poor soft spoken flowers couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
“The butterflies arrived and sipped a cup of dew off the flower’s leaves and gracefully danced across the colorful flower petal and listened to all the poor vain flowers had to say about themselves. And they listened and listened and listened…a never said a word. One daffodil referred to it as ‘…talking to a rock. It would be so nice if once they would agree with how beautiful I am.’
“When the aphids arrived and they often did; they never listened, rarely spoke, except to say, ‘Very tasty.’ A complement the poor flowers really didn’t relish.
I listened as a Wisteria vine, wrapped around the branch of monarch of a fir tree shouted as loud as it could; of all the woes of the flowers, into the tree’s ear.”
The Major pulled himself up as tall and straight as he could and in the most commanding voice he could muster.
“You think flowers have problems.” The tree’s voice boomed over the top of all the meadow, through every path in the wood and out to the sea; “I stand as tall as a mountain and as strong and all I do is support a nest of birds, be a playground for a family of squirrels. A waste, just a waste.” And the tree’s voice trailed off, his eyes closed and he seemed to drift off to sleep. But the same lament was echoed by every other tree in the wood. Then the trees once more stood tall, ridged and silent.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something moving in the wood. It rustled a few leaves, had no voice of its own…and then I saw it clearly…a little dust devil. As it twisted and darted its path through the deep wood; it was drawing ever closer to the sun lit meadow and it was carrying something, something very small.